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Advocate for women in STEM receives Life Sciences Distinguished Service Award

BYU alumna Suzanne Hyland received a Distinguished Service Award at the 2022 College of Life Sciences convocation ceremony in recognition of her service to female life science students.

Suzanne Hyland, white blonde woman, smiling

To honor her passion for mentoring and helping women find joy and success in their personal, family, and professional pursuits, the Hylands established the Suzanne M. Hyland Women in Biological and BioMedical Sciences Endowed Scholarship-Mentorship Fund. In 2017, the Hylands joined the Life Sciences Advisory Council, where Suzanne chaired the Women’s Committee. In this role, she was instrumental in establishing the peer consulting program and the annual She is a Scientist event.

“My intent was to have something permanent in the College that would support female students,” Hyland says.

The peer consulting program developed as Hyland learned through a survey that male and female students wanted a peer in their field of study to ask about classes, professors, and career paths. The Life Sciences peer consulting program allows students to talk with someone who has been in their shoes and gain advice for the future.

The first She is a Scientist event was designed for students to network with female professionals and receive personal insights as they broke bread together. The event continues to evolve to meet the needs of female life sciences students. Keynote speakers, panelists, and breakout session facilitators speak on a variety of topics, including navigating complex family and career goals.

After each She is a Scientist event, Hyland has students approach her saying the speakers’ advice was exactly what they needed.

Hyland has always felt passionate about education for women. She was one of three women in the BYU economics program as an undergraduate student in the late 80s. She tried many times to complete a master’s degree, but the opportunity eluded her as a young mother.

When her youngest daughter turned sixteen, Hyland finally went back to school and received an executive MBA from the University of Utah. “I’ve always been very committed to education—especially for women—because it not only blesses them personally, but it also gives them earning potential,” Hyland says. “I think it really enhances their ability to be a wonderful mother and to guide and direct their children for their educational pursuits.”

Dean Porter, who Hyland often calls a “he for she,” has supported the women’s committee in developing these two programs to support female students. Hyland has loved working with Dean Porter and other like-minded people to give opportunities to life science students.

“The people who are working on behalf of the students are sincere and eager to help you,” Hyland says. “You pray for angels to guide you, but guess what? There are people here on earth who are interested in your success and your future.”

Hyland hopes that young women will seek out new opportunities and advocate for themselves. Her valuable work for female students in the College of Life Sciences is ongoing. She advises all students to “consider barriers as speedbumps and not fences.”